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Series Preview: Mariners (1-2) vs. Athletics (2-2)

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The Mariners head out on their first road trip of the year to face the Athletics over the weekend.

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, April 10

7:05 pm

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Athletics

LHP Drew Pomeranz

Saturday, April 11

1:05 pm

Mariners

LHP J.A. Happ

Athletics

RHP Sonny Gray

Sunday, April 12

1:05 pm

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Athletics

RHP Jesse Hahn

Mariners (2014)

Athletics (2014)

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

94 (12th in AL)

102 (6th in AL)

Athletics

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-11.7 (7th)

-2.5 (5th)

Athletics

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

102 (9th)

101 (7th)

Athletics

Bullpen (FIP-)

87 (1st)

93 (7th)

Mariners

After a brief opening homestand, the Mariners head out on their first road trip of the season. Their first stop will be in Oakland to take on the division rival Athletics. With such high expectations placed on the team, losing two of three against the Angels was a less than ideal way to start off the year. These first nine games will be very difficult for the Mariners but it gets considerably easier towards the end of April. Coming out of this stretch around .500 would be decent start to build off of.

Despite acquiring a number of big name players toward the trade deadline last year, the Athletics’ overall numbers were unexpectedly average. Much of that has to with the huge slump the entire team suffered through in August and September. The A’s tore everything down and rebuilt a roster that might be the deepest in baseball. I wouldn’t be surprised if their overall numbers at the end of the year look very similar to the numbers above.

The Athletics:

For a team that’s so deep, the Athletics range of outcomes is remarkably high. During their opening series against the Rangers, they we’re all over the board. They won their two games by a combined score of 18-0 but lost their two games by a combined score of 2-13. Two of their starting outfielders are out injured to start the year, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick. If there was one area of the roster that wasn’t as deep, it was the outfield. The A’s recently signed Cody Ross to fill the gap while Crisp and Reddick recover from their injuries.

Key Players

IF/OF Ben Zobrist Before the A’s traded for Ben Zobrist, they were in the midst of an incredibly confusing offseason. After they acquired Zobrist, everything fell into place. He’s the glue that holds this roster together and was a perfect fit for what Billy Beane built in Oakland. Despite losing most of his power, he’s maintained his 5.4 fWAR production level over the last two years. His plate discipline numbers are among the best in the game and that should allow him to continue to be productive into the latter half of his career.

3B Brett Lawrie Brett Lawrie has never been able to replicate the gaudy numbers he put up in 43 games during his rookie year. His high energy playing style has led to a myriad of injuries that have forced him to miss 38% of his games over the last three years. The Athletics are hoping that getting him off the turf in Toronto will lead to a healthier year for Lawrie. When he is on the field, Lawrie has provided league average offensive production. A career low walk rate last year is particularly concerning. He isn’t particularly known for his patience, but if he’s not getting on base more often and isn’t hitting for as much power, it’s hard to see how he’ll produce an above average line at the plate.

1B Billy Butler Signing Billy Butler was a perplexing acquisition at the time. Butler had seen two straight years of declining offensive production in Kansas City and wasn’t about to provide any value in the field or on the basepaths. Throwing money after a declining bat-only player seems like a fool’s errand. Yet, the Athletics might have added some diversity to their lineup with a relatively rare offensive skillset. Billy Beane obviously sees something in Butler—if he’s able to return to his previous offensive levels, it would go a long way towards pushing the Athletics towards contention.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Drew Pomeranz (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

69

23.0%

9.4%

10.4%

45.7%

2.35

3.77

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Curveball

93.0 mph;

42.2%

91.2 mph;

29.9%

81.8 mph;

26.9%

Pomeranz_PAgraph

Drew Pomeranz bounced between the bullpen and the starting rotation last year but showed enough promise as a starter that he finds himself at the back end of the Athletics’ rotation to start this year. He primarily relies on his fastball and his curveball and both are plus pitches. The problem is a lack of a clear third option. He has a changeup that he’s almost completely abandoned (he threw just 11 last year). Two plus pitches will help him succeed in short stints but he could struggle as a starter as batters see the same two pitches in two or three at-bats per game.

RHP Sonny Gray (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

219

20.4%

8.2%

9.4%

55.9%

3.08

3.46

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

94.4 mph;

29.8%

94.1 mph;

24.8%

87.5 mph;

7.3%

87.4 mph;

10.9%

82.4 mph;

27.1%

Gray_PAgraph

Sonny Gray established himself as a front line pitcher in his first full year in the majors last year. That success carried over to this year as he was able to keep the Rangers hitless into the eighth inning in his Opening Day start. He’s best known for his big curveball and he’ll throw it to righties and lefties, generating an above average amount of whiffs with it. All of his pitches generate an above average amount of grounders which has helped him avoid being hurt by the long ball.

RHP Jesse Hahn (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

73 1/3

22.9%

10.5%

7.5%

50.3%

3.07

3.40

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.0 mph

30.4%

91.4 mph;

30.5%

84.3 mph;

7.4%

80.1 mph;

2.5%

74.7 mph;

29.0%

Hahn_PAgraph

Jesse Hahn was acquired from the Padres this offseason and has the highest upside of all the pitchers acquired by the Athletics. His minor league track record shows a high strikeout rate combined with an ability to avoid the walk, but in his first year in the majors, his walk rate spiked to over 10%. Much of his success will come down to his ability to control the strike zone. He won’t have much trouble racking up strikeouts. His sinker generates whiffs almost one and half standard deviations above the league average sinker. He primarily uses it against lefties leading to a fairly even platoon split. His curveball is his other plus pitch and it’s used against both lefties and righties.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

2-1

.667

-

L-W-W

Athletics

2-2

.500

0.5

W-L-W-L

Rangers

2-2

.500

0.5

L-W-L-W

Astros

1-2

.333

1.0

W-L-L

Mariners

1-2

.333

1.0

W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Royals

3-0

1.000

+1.0

W-W-W

Blue Jays

2-1

.667

-

W-L-W

Indians

2-1

.667

-

L-W-W

Red Sox

2-1

.667

-

W-L-W

Athletics

2-2

.500

0.5

W-L-W-L

It’s much too early to worry about the standings. At this time last year, the Mariners were leading the division after they swept the Angels on the road. The turntables have turned and the Angels find themselves in first to start this year. The A’s and the Rangers are the only teams in baseball who have played four games.

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